CFL Bulb Safety, Disposal and Handling
Compact fluorescent light bulbs, also known as CFLs, are a trendy choice today. Because they use up to 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, many families and businesses have replaced most or even all of their indoor lighting with CFLs to take advantage of the savings.
However, CFLs, like all light bulbs, contain mercury, which is extremely harmful to the environment. Mercury, as well as various other chemicals found in light bulbs, can be detrimental to the environment and to people if not disposed of safely.
What is in our light sources?
CFLs contain an average of 4mg of mercury. Coal plant emissions to power that bulb add another 2.4mg for a total impact of 6.4mg. If incandescent bulbs contain about 10mg, CFLs are still the better choice. By comparison, an older thermometer contains approximately 500mg of mercury.
Other chemicals you will find in light bulbs include metal halide, ceramic metal halide, high-pressure sodium, and mercury vapor. Mercury vapor, arguably, is the substance that we should all be most concerned about as exposure can cause damage to many of our body’s systems, including the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs.
When broken or damaged bulbs are introduced into our landfills, the mercury will migrate horizontally as well as vertically, contaminating our groundwater, the soil, and the atmosphere.
Choosing CFLs with the lowest possible mercury content is possible today. You will even find some that contain only 1mg, which is a smarter choice, both for our health and for the environment.
How to safely dispose of your broken or burned-out light bulbs:
When a light bulb or CFL breaks, it releases mercury vapor and mercury beads into the air. For this reason, it is essential to dispose of bulbs safely to make sure that the chemicals contained inside the unit never enter the landfill or the environment.
CFLs may last longer than most light bulbs but, like most household items, they too will eventually reach their end-of-life. They also break and, knowing that they contain mercury and other harmful chemicals, safe disposal should be a paramount concern.
Disposal of CFLs and all light bulbs that contain mercury should be limited to local hazardous waste recycling. They should not, under any circumstances, be thrown away in your regular trash or a dumpster. Just about all materials used to make CFLs can be recycled or reused and disposing of them safely will provide many more benefits beyond public health.
Cleaning up a broken CFL or other mercury-containing bulbs should be done very carefully:
• Be sure to open windows to ventilate the area for about 5 – 10 minutes before cleanup.
• Remove all people and pets.
• Shut down your air circulation systems.
• Do not vacuum as it could spread mercury vapor.
• Collect broken glass with cardboard, damp towels, and sticky tape.
• Place broken items in a sealable container like a glass jar.
• Leave your A/C systems off for a few hours if possible.
Cleanlites Recycling is dedicated to reducing landfill contamination with cutting-edge recycling solutions for businesses across the nation. We want to emphasize that broken or end of life bulbs should never enter the landfill or the environment. To learn more about what you can do, reach out today.